In Home For a Bunny (Brown, 1965) we follow a little bunny in his search for a home of his own. He meets a variety of different creatures along the way and asks each one if he could live with them. The answer is always “No” and he begins to feel quite lonely and sad. One of the messages in this story is that every heart is seeking a place to call home; for some, they are born into a safe, loving family that wants them; for others, this is not the case. Many children, even in our beautiful Aloha state, were unwanted from the moment their little hearts started to beat.
Family is central to a person’s identity. Ask any person about their life story and at some point in the telling family will be mentioned – sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. It is in the home that we learn personal responsibility for our actions and for our role in the home. It is where we learn the character values that help us become contributing citizens. In our family we learn about being connected to others and that there will always be someone we can run back to when we are scared, or hurt, or lost. In a family we learn that our actions, words, and attitudes affect others and we learn to choose them carefully. Now ponder the consequences of a child without a family?
According to an August 2012 report from the Administration for Children and Families, a resource of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there is a decline in the number of children in the foster system, but that is not the rest of the story. “The encouraging news is that fewer children are in foster care settings and fewer children in foster care are waiting to be adopted,” said George H. Sheldon, acting assistant secretary at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families. “Our challenge continues to be encouraging states to reduce existing foster care caseloads, working to promote the well-being of children who receive child welfare services and re-doubling efforts to promote the adoption of kids from the child welfare system” (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/news/acf-releases-adoption-and-foster-care-data). Yet the fact is that there are still children in the system, waiting for a home. In a recent report from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System show that “at the end of Fiscal Year 2011, 104,236 children in foster care were waiting to be adopted” (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/news/acf-releases-adoption-and-foster-care-data). And those numbers are just from the United States; around the world there are millions of orphans longing to belong. The implications of these numbers are staggering. These children are going to grow up and have an impact on our society and the world, and we are left to wonder what kind of impact it will be. Who is shaping the characters of these children?
Needless to say, adoption is an option for these lost and lonely children. It is an option that is frequently pushed aside by those who fear the risks of turning babies over to strangers, or who cringe at the thought of opening up their homes to strangers. There are some people who would be open to considering the adoption option but fear the risk of falling in love with a child and then losing them. Others dread the piles of paperwork and the enormous price tag attached to the child.
I am extremely privileged to personally know several adoptive families. The children come from a variety of backgrounds – foster to adoption, adoption agencies, personal connections, and even international. Some were adopted as babies, others as young children, and one as a teenager. In all cases there were adjustment challenges, but love has managed the stormy seas. Upon hearing about my writing this article, one outspoken 10-year old said, “I don’t have anything to say. My mom is my mom.” That just about sums it up, doesn’t it?
I interviewed one adoptive mother, Mary, simply because I wanted to hear it in her own words. She has three boys that she fostered from infancy and eventually adopted. Consider her thoughts:
Adoption is the giving of life by the birthmother and the receiving of life by the adoptive family. It is a sacred trust. It is a life-giving and life-affirming act. All three of my boys were supposed to have been aborted, but were not. Adoption has changed my life. It has made me less judgmental…and has given me more compassion and patience. It has strengthened my love and admiration for children and give me the desire to work with them as a profession. The pros of adopting are the amazing support system that the state provides to help adoptive families; the cons are the baggage that can come with children who may have attachment issues or behavior problems if they were exposed to drugs. Have the birth family present in our lives has been a blessing…however, Z is unable to see his birth family and this causes him great sorrow. I fell in love with each of my children and they ended up never leaving after being in foster care. It was a willingness to love the “least of these” in Jesus’s name.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. This is the time of year when we celebrate the families that have come together through adoption. It’s the time of year when we support those in the process of adopting. It’s the time of year when we rally together to raise awareness about the many children waiting for their turn to come home. There are numerous family-friendly resources for adoptive families. One such resource is Steven Curtis Chapman’s organization Show Hope: www.showhope.org. On this website you can read beautiful testimonies of families coming together through adoption, as well descriptions of resources that can aid in the adoption process, including financial assistance for adoptive families. When we are willing to love selflessly miracles can happen. And the Little Bunny? He found a home with someone who was willing to share its life with another beating heart. Can you?